Way before there was Westeros, there was Middle Earth, J.R.R. Tolkien’s huge magical world full of humans, hobbits, and elves. If you’ve read the Lord of the Rings trilogy or its prequel, The Hobbit, you know that Tolkien was incredibly detailed about every little thing, and that includes all the places Frodo, and before him Bilbo, visited. Now, 40 years after his death a brand new map of Middle Earth has been discovered showing us just how detailed he was about everything.
Depending on which edition of Lord of the Rings you have, you might actually have a pull-out map in the back of the book (mine does, so I assume there are lots of other books with maps out there). This new map, though, is not like ones we’ve seen before. It was discovered in illustrator Pauline Baynes’ copy of The Lord of the Rings, who was creating her own version of the map to be published. This map got tucked away and forgotten about, until now when it was discovered in a book handed in at Blackwell’s Rare Books in Oxford.
The map shows the common places we know (and can’t pronounce) in Middle Earth, like Mordor, Minas Tirith, and the Sea of Rhûn. But on top of that, Tolkien wrote all over it with his own comments, explaining in more detail about places and also what real-life cities they’re meant to resemble. From his notes, according to Tolkien, Hobbiton is on the same latitude as Oxford, and Ravenna, Italy served as the basis for Minas Tirith. Now that also gives you a better idea as to just how far our fellowship walked.
“[This map is] an important document, and perhaps the finest piece of Tolkien ephemera to emerge in the last 20 years at least,” Blackwell explained to The Guardian. The shop is currently displaying the book, and willing to sell it to one super-Tolkien fan for around £60,000. I imagine Peter Jackson and Stephen Colbert are already en route to Oxford to snatch this up.
(Image via New Line Cinema, Blackwell Rare Books.)